Giants

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

austin-jackson-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants had a glaring hole in center field after the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen and his subsequent move to right field, so it stood out when a press release to announce the signing of Austin Jackson included the words “depth at all three outfield positions.”

A day later, team officials made it clear that Jackson is not necessarily the final piece of the puzzle, or even the solution in center field. After mentioning several times that it was a strategic signing, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean gave a blunt answer when asked about Jackson’s role. 

“Did we get him to be our everyday center fielder? Probably not,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that in his recent history he’s been able to go out there in that fashion.”

Jackson played just 54 games in 2016 and 85 last season for the Indians. The Giants see him as a complementary piece, someone who can handle plenty of time in center, spell McCutchen and Hunter Pence in the corners, and give them a dangerous bat against left-handed pitchers. 

It seemed that was a role that would mostly go to Austin Slater, but the Giants gave Jackson a two-year deal for $6 million, basically wiping out the rest of their room under the tax line. They will not be significantly involved in free agency from this point on, which leaves two options for one more outfield addition. 

Steven Duggar was mentioned over and over again on Tuesday’s conference call, and the Giants will give the prospect a chance to win a significant role this spring. It’s possible that Duggar and Jackson could form a platoon, but before committing to that, the front office will look to add a third offseason addition via trade. 

“There are still some fronts that we are pursuing with minimum-service type of players, which are low in salary,” Sabean said. “We’ll flush out other possibilities.”

Evans has spent months laying the groundwork for multiple deals, and the front office remains confident that one more outfielder can be added via trade. The player would have to be young and pre-arbitration to line up financially with the rest of the offseason work.

If that doesn’t end up happening, Bruce Bochy won’t be too upset. Bochy said he couldn’t be happier with the work Sabean and Evans have done to overhaul an outfield that was unfathomably bad on both sides of the ball last season. If Jackson is the final piece, Bochy is ready to make it work. 

“Right now, as we start the season, I think you’ll see Austin out in center field as much as anything,” he said. “We’ll see where we’re at when we break camp, but that’s a need for us out there in center. As we break camp, we’ll know where we’re at with other options, Gorkys (Hernandez) or Duggar. But center field is where (Jackson) will spend most of his time this spring.”

Giants send hard-throwing reliever Ray Black down to Triple-A

rayblackusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Giants send hard-throwing reliever Ray Black down to Triple-A

NEW YORK — Ray Black has been one of the better stories for the Giants this season, overcoming years of injuries to finally make his MLB debut. The next chapter in Black’s story will be one focused on caution. 

Needing a fresh arm, the Giants on Monday made a surprise move, optioning Black back to Triple-A Sacramento and recalling Derek Law. Black had pitched in four of the first six games of this road trip and now will get a few days off before throwing on a more regulated schedule in the minors. 

“There’s a little concern that we’ve been using Black a lot,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “This gives him a break, too. He’s done a great job getting his career on track. He’s dealt with some injuries and this cuts back risk of any kind of injury.”

Bochy said Black, who allowed five runs in his last three appearances, is healthy. The workload may have caught up to a pitcher who often threw every three days in the minors and has not been used to pitching on back-to-back days. 

“He came out of it fine,” Bochy said. “He’s healthy, but we want to keep it that way.”

Black gave up just one hit in his first month in the big leagues. August has been a struggle, and while he was still piling up strikeouts, opposing hitters were starting to look comfortable. The Giants are hoping the breather helps, and Bochy said Black will be back at some point soon. He cannot return for 10 days after being optioned. 

--- Dereck Rodriguez threw a light bullpen session and did some jogging before batting practice. His hamstring is doing well, and he’s likely to slide back into the rotation on Friday at AT&T Park. 

--- Chris Stratton is here as part of the taxi squad and will start Tuesday’s game. Stratton believes he found a fix to his fastball command issues; Ryan Vogelsong was with the Triple-A team for a few days and gave Stratton some tips that the young right-hander said proved to be very beneficial. Vogelsong has been traveling through the minors this season and helping Giants prospects. 

--- In case you missed it, a look at some ways the Giants can work towards the future over their final 37 games. 

Uneventful Giants' day of reckoning finally might be here

Uneventful Giants' day of reckoning finally might be here

The Athletics have tried to offer as much cover as they can, but eventually the Giants-In-Freefall exhibition would have to come to light.
 
So here it is, in the revolting glory -- a team in the midst of what playoff contenders would say is a promising set of games but is in fact becoming what their opponents would say is a promising set of games. A team staring a massive rebuild in the face while holding its hands over its ears and humming loudly to drown out the noise.
 
They went to Cincinnati at the outer fringes of the playoff races -- six games behind Arizona for the division lead, 6 ½ behind Milwaukee and Philadelphia -- and after a weekend of non-hitting, non-pitching, non-winning squalor, those numbers are eight and 7 ½. They are going to New York to play the Mets, who are as shambolic as ever and still playing better baseball than San Francisco. In fact, the only teams who aren’t this month are Baltimore, Kansas City and Miami, who are trying to lose, and Detroit, which has abandoned pitching as a strategy.
 
In other words, the offseason is here, and the question isn’t when the remodel begins, but how massive a task it will be.
 
The Giants always have erred on the side of holding rather than folding. They have clung to the good old days and the good old names for the better part of a decade, hoping either to rekindle the old magic, defy the shrinking margins for error or just plain kick the rebuild can down the road. They won titles by underpaying their young stars and rewarding them in the unproductive by-and-by, which has engendered loyalty from within but not attraction from without.
 
In other words, they positioned themselves to be in the worst possible place at the July trade deadline, neither buyers nor sellers because there is nothing they don’t need and nothing they can offer, and since then they are 6-10.
 
But this isn’t just recency bias. Observers and fans thought Vegas was on to something when it saw the Giants as an 87-win team in March, but the lads promptly headed to the middle of a large pack in the National League and stayed there through a bad May, a good June and a bad July. They are an unsustainable fourth place/11th place team, and the day of reckoning is upon them.
 
But the rebuild won’t involve Buster Posey or Madison Bumgarner because that is not the Giants Way. It is a franchise built on rewarding the back end of careers that served well on the front end, and it is hard to imagine that not remaining the case.
 
But it is also a franchise that is recognizing that one massive name isn’t going to resuscitate this, or jump-start a new era of glory. They need help in numbers, and grafting one huge name like Bryce Harper (a pipe dream at best, a lunatic’s raving at worst) onto this roster isn’t going to change that because it needs help nearly everywhere. Frankly, this team is lucky to be as close as it is, and that’s only because the National League lacks the powerhouses the American League has in relative abundance (two teams on pace to win 100, five to win 94 or more).
 
But it isn’t really close. They have built an uneventful season with uneventful achievements, and in this adrenalized world, in a crowded entertainment landscape, nothing plays worse than uneventful.
 
Now the A’s -- they’re eventful. That might sting, but for the moment they are doing the Giants a great service by providing cover for San Francisco’s lack of inspiration. It’s not the goal, mind you, but sometimes things just gots to be that way.